Clare 2-17 Kildare 1-19
AN Eoin Cleary free, converted five minutes into injury time in a pulsating NFL division 3 league final in Croke Park on Saturday evening, guided Clare to a sensational defeat of Kildare.
Corofin’s Jamie Malone was fouled for the crucial free and Cleary, who had been promised a trip to Liverpoool by selector David O’Brien if he delivered at GAA headquarters, stroked over the winning point from a tight angle, 23 yards out.
With normal time almost up, Clare trailed 1-18 to 1-15 and it looked as if their chances of winning had evaporated. However a Martin McMahon diagonal ball, found Gary Brennan and the Clare captained placed Dean Ryan for a dramatic equalising goal. Not noted for his goal scoring, Ryan finished lethally from six inches. Two minutes later, substitute Shane McGrath hit the post with a point effort but another sub, Enda Coughlan, reacted quickest and fisted over the rebound. However Kildare responded with a Neil Flynn equalising free before Cleary struck for his injury time winner.
Clare led 1-10 to 1-9 at half time having started slowly but patiently worked their way back into the game. They were given a massive boost just before the interval when David Tubridy buried a superbly created goal. Keelan Sexton found Gary Brennan on the edge of the square, with a diagonal ball. Brennan laid it off to Tubridy and the Doonbeg man finished impressively. He also kicked five first half frees while Sexton, Jamie Malone, Pearse Lillis and Eoin Cleary put over the remaining scores.
Clare were 1-3 to 0-2 down after just six minutes and they looked shaky defensively. Neil Flynn put away the Kildare goal but thereafter Clare settled and played some exceptional football.
However a straight red card was issued to substitute Graham Kelly minutes after his introduction in the closing stages of the second half.
On a momentous evening for football in the county, Clare were superbly led by Gary Brennan, while others to play exceptionally well included Pearse Lillis, Jamie Malone, David Tubridy and Kevin Harnett.
When they return to training this week Clare will prepare for their upcoming Munster championship meeting with Limerick but buoyed by the confidence engendered by a memorable display in Croke Park.
Clare: Joe Hayes (Lissycasey); Seánie Malone (Miltown), Kevin Harnett (Meelick), Martin McMahon (Kilmurry Ibrickane); Pearse Lillis (Cooraclare), Dean Ryan (Éire Óg), Cian O’Dea (Kilfenora); Gary Brennan (Clondegad), Cathal O’Connor (Coolmeen); Jamie Malone (Corofin), David Tubridy (Doonbeg),Seán Collins (Cratloe); Eoin Cleary ((Miltown), Keelan Sexton (Kilmurry Ibrickane), Pat Burke (Kilmacud Crokes).
Subs: Podge Collins (Cratloe) for Seánie Malone (half-time), Shane McGrath (Thomas Davis) for Pat Burke (54), Enda Coughlan (Kilmurry Ibrickane) for Cian O’Dea (67), Graham Kelly (Miltown) for Keelan Sexton (68), Seán Haugh (O’Curry’s) for Pearse Lillis (75), Jack O’Dea (Kilfenora) for Martin McMahon (Black Card – 77),
Scorers: David Tubridy (1-5, 0-5f), Eoin Cleary (0-6, 0-4f), Dean Ryan (1-0), Jamie Malone, Pearse Lillis (0-2 each), Podge Collins, Enda Coughlan (0-1 each).
Yellow cards: Kevin Harnett, David Tubridy.
Black Card: Martin McMahon
Red Card: Graham Kelly
Kildare: Mark Donnellan; Peter Kelly, David Hyland, Ollie Lyons; Ryan Houlihan, Fergal Conway, Ciaran Fitzpatrick; Paul Cribbin, Tommy Moolick; Adam Tyrell, Niall Kelly, Eoghan O’Flaherty; Alan Smith, Kevin Feely, Neil Flynn.
Subs: Cathal McNally for Eamon Callaghan (47), Kevin Murnaghan for Adam Tyrrell (54 inj), Eanna O’Connor for Alan Smith (58), Eoin Powderly for Ciaran Fitzpatrick (71 inj), Daryl Flynn for Tommy Moolick (76), Emmet Bolton for Fergal Conway (77).
Scorers: Neil Flynn (1-6, 0-5f), Adam Tyrrell (0-6, 0-4f), Paul Cribbin, Eoghan O’Flahetry (0-2 each), Fergal Conway, Alan Smith, Tommy Moolick (0-1 each)
Yellow Cards: Ryan Houlihan, Ciaran Fitzpatrick, Kevin Feely.
Red Card: Kevin Feely.
Referee: Noel Mooney (Cavan)